Stylish ‘Last Night in Soho’ Twists its Delicate Guessing Game into an Over-Indulgent Final Act

Parisa Taghizadeh / © 2021 Focus Features, LLC

Edgar Wright’s latest adventure Last Night in Soho transports the viewer back to a glamorous, dazzling London in the 1960s, characterised by neon lights, showbiz starlets and of course, music. This coming-of-age-turned-horror is stylish and exciting, though this is slightly soured by an unbalanced and farfetched third act.

Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie) is a wide eyed, 1960s-obsessed fashion student leaving the picturesque comfort of her cottage in Cornwall for the bright lights of London in 2020. Her Grandmother’s (Rita Tushingham) parting words echo throughout the narrative, “it’s not what you imagine, London”, but Eloise’s dreams of the big smoke are far too exciting to take notice. An alienating first night in student accommodation, with the hilariously cringeworthy and cruel roommate Jocasta (Synnove Carlson) and her gaggle of mean girls leaves Eloise looking for elsewhere to live. She finds herself calling the number of grumpy landlady Miss Collins, played by the extraordinary Diana Rigg in her final role, whose gravitas and presence on screen demands the viewer’s attention. Eloise moves into her bedsit, which remains unchanged from the 1960s. The pulsating flashes of light from a neon restaurant sign next-door bleed into her bedroom, turning a dusty, grey room into a fantastical portal that transports her to London in the 1960s, Eloise’s dreamland.

She shadows the beautiful starlet-to-be, Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy). They are tied together, their actions mirroring each other, being linked by reflections and slick transitions where one replaces the other. Sandie is a singer, hell bent on making her dreams come true, she is promised a career by the charming and mysterious manager Jack (played by Matt Smith with darkness and edge). The two girls blend into one another as Eloise undertakes a metamorphosis in her look to become a doppelgänger of Sandie. Their lives begin to merge together, visions and reality become one. However, all is not as it seems as underneath the glamour and music, seediness and misogyny is revealed and Eloise’s dreams soon turn to waking nightmares.

Courtesy of Focus Features / © 2021 Focus Features, LLC

Last Night in Soho has a fantastic soundtrack of gems from the 1960s, including a cover of Petula Clark’s Downtown performed stunningly by Anya Taylor-Joy. Though there is notably less of the fast paced, visual comedy that is synonymous with Wright’s work, his love for music and comedic flare is certainly still there. This is Wright’s most colourful and stylish film to date, with some impressive work from cinematographer Chung-hoon Chung. Soho in the 1960s becomes a fantasy land, bright lights, swinging music and Wright’s editing creates a rhythm that entrances the viewer; much like Eloise we are being drawn into the shimmering world that feels distant from the grey, intimidating modern day London. However, Wright slowly reveals the danger of glamourizing the past, revealing the dark underbelly of a seemingly shining industry — one that seems all too familiar in a #MeToo era. Last Night in Soho exposes the myth of the past being glamorous and the modern day being without prejudice, as it becomes apparent misogyny is rampant in both. In a knowing nod to the audience, the cast includes real life stars of the 60s Diana Rigg, Rita Tushingham and Terrence Stamp, who all deliver stellar performances. The central performance from Thomasin McKenzie is fantastic, she evokes such pathos with her bewildered naivety and earnestness. She has wonderful chemistry with her gentle friend John, played with sensitivity by Michael Ajao. Anya Taylor-Joy steals the show and is perfectly cast as Sandie, able to deliver the all singing and dancing star power whilst simultaneously showing delicate vulnerability.

Wright and Krysty Wilson-Carnes’s screenplay balances the humour and darkness very well for the first half but becomes a little clunky and exposition heavy which leads to some predictability. What started as a twisted exploration of dreams and fantasies becomes an over-indulgent horror. The narrative loses itself in a whirlwind of ridiculousness and becomes farfetched. What made the first acts so strong was Wright constantly keeping the audience guessing, toeing the line between real and fantasy. Disappointingly, he provides a predictable, ‘plot-twist’ answer to the mystique, which cheapens the thrill of the main narrative. It wraps itself up a little too quickly and neatly with a couple of set-up plot points hanging loose and without closure. Having said this, Last Night in Soho, is for the most part an impressive piece of filmmaking with amazing performances, stunning visual style and a rhythmic, gripping narrative that keeps you on the edge of your seat. It is soured by its final act, only so disappointing as it had such a strong start, but it is still a thoroughly entertaining film that is well worth watching.

Last Night in Soho is out in cinemas now

by Chloe Slater

Chloe (she/her) is a film fanatic and proud northerner hailing from West Yorkshire. She is currently studying an MA in Film Studies at The University of Manchester. She has an affinity for Japanese animation, fantasy films and anything that Greta Gerwig touches! Outside of her love for film, she is a big football fan, supporting Blackburn Rovers. Chloe can also be found playing guitar and bass or watching live music. Favourite films include: Spirited AwayLadybirdLost in TranslationFrances HaPortrait of a Lady on Fire and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

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